Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: Sex scenes, offensive language & drug use
Taron Egerton as Elton John
Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin
Richard Madden as John Reid
Bryce Dallas Howard as Sheila Eileen
Director: Dexter Fletcher
A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s (Taron Egerton) breakthrough years.
Rocketman was a movie I was looking forward to. Although I was only recently getting into Elton John’s music, I’ve liked what I heard from him, and with the likes of Taron Egerton involved (and the trailers looking pretty good), I was curious about it. If there was one thing that had me slightly worried, it was Bohemian Rhapsody last year. While I liked the movie when I saw it, much of its flaws and failures became apparent to me over time, and now it’s just a wasted opportunity and a misfire. With yet another music biopic focussing on another musical icon, I was a little nervous about how it would turn out (directed by Dexter Fletcher, who did the reshoots of Bohemian Rhapsody), despite it looking good. Thankfully I can say that Rocketman is pretty much the anthesis of Bohemian Rhapsody.
While I don’t want to spend much of the review comparing this and Bohemian Rhapsody, it really just emphasises what Rocketman does so well. Both movies had the artists involved in the making of them, but while Bohemian Rhapsody was very clean and sanitised (particularly with the portrayal of the alive band members), Rocketman seems genuine and raw and doesn’t filter what happened. This is definitely not a PG-13 movie and I’m glad that’s the case. Elton John was involved in the movie but he seemed to give the filmmakers the reign to what they want to portray his story, warts and all. It covers a lot of the bad choices he’s made and the things that he goes through, without feeling like there is some kind of judgement of him throughout. While I don’t know his story outside of the movie, I can tell that there’s probably some bits that aren’t entirely accurate (like most biopics). However, you get the feeling that thematically it nails his story. For example, at certain points they play his music during segments, even songs that weren’t even made at those certain points in his life yet, but it works surprisingly perfectly for those particular moments. With it being a fantastical story, they can play around with things like that. Within the first few minutes you know what sort of movie you are in for. Rocketman is 2 hours long and on the whole I liked what we got in that runtime. It’s a little slow to begin with as it starts out in Elton’s childhood, but it picks up as it goes along. Despite its unique take on a biopic, it does admittedly follow some of the familiar biopic beats, however it’s the way that it handles these moments that allow you to overlook them.
Taron Egerton is fantastic as Elton John. Not only is it him actually singing (and doing it greatly), but he just embodies Elton John so well as a person and it doesn’t come across as just an impression. Egerton had a pretty good start to his career, with his breakout role in Kingsman, followed up by movies like Eddie the Eagle, but this is his best performance yet. It would be an absolute surprise if he didn’t get any awards attention, and it would be well deserved (and no, I don’t think I’ll be changing my mind like I did with Bohemian Rhapsody). The rest of the supporting cast work really well, Jamie Bell as Elton’s songwriter Bernie, Richard Madden as Elton’s manager (who also appeared in Bohemian Rhapsody, played there by Aiden Gillen instead) and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother.
Dexter Fletcher directed this movie very well, he’s got a great handle on everything. It goes without saying that Elton John’s music definitely elevates things but it’s not just that it’s Taron performing these songs in concert scenes, they use them in a great way in the movie. It doesn’t rely on recognisable songs to get the audience to like the movie, it actually fits the scenes they appear in very well. The aforementioned fantasy sequences are also shot really well, visually stunning. It’s much more surreal than a typical biopic, and it was definitely a risk but it definitely paid off, there was no other way to do a Elton John biopic justice. When I say this movie is a musical, I’m not just saying that because it has a lot of music. At some points there are choreographed moments where multiple people are singing Elton John songs (not just Taron), that look right out of a classic musical. In that, it’s definitely best that you see this on the big screen because it’s a real experience.
Rocketman does justice to Elton John in such a great way and was way better than I thought it would be. It’s a really entertaining experience of a movie, very well directed and Taron Egerton is tremendous. Even if you were really off put by Bohemian Rhapsody or are just on the whole not a big fan of music biopics, I still think you should give it a chance. If you’re a fan of Elton John, I recommend you checking it out and even if you’re not familiar with him I still think there’s quite a bit in the movie that you’ll like.